BY ARUL LOUIS
New York, Oct 5 (IANS) US Vice President Mike Pence takes on the mantle of the prime Republican campaigner with the election clock ticking down to 29 days as President Donald Trump was still hospitalised with Covid-19.
Although doctors have said that Trump may be discharged from the hospital on Monday, he will not be able to attend campaign rallies in person.
Hence, Pence will now undertake a round of electioneering under the ‘Operation MAGA’ initiative launched by Trump’s re-election campaign which is a series of in-person and virtual events to be held throughout this month the November 3 election.
He will have “a very full aggressive schedule”, Jason Miller, a senior campaign adviser, told NBC News.
On Monday, the Vice President will travel to Utah.
On Thursday, he will participate in a ‘Make America Great Agian’ rally in Arizona, a big event for Pence who has addressed only relatively smaller groups in low-key electioneering.
While speaking to NBC News, Miller said that Pence will be backed by the Trump family with sons Donald Jr. and Eric, and daughter Ivanka campaigning intensively.
Eric Trump had addressed a meeting of Indian supporters of the President in Atlanta last month.
The most important challenge for Pence will come on Wednesday when he will face Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden’s running mate Kamala Harris in the first Vice Presidential debate, where questions about the Trump administration’s responses to the Covid-19 crisis will be highlighted.
This debate will be a switch around from the presidential one, where Trump was tough and Biden was mild in comparison.
A former prosecutor, Harris is a formidable debater while Pence’s softer personality is the opposite of Trump’s.
If Trump doesn’t make it to the next two debates with Biden slated for October 15 and 22, Wednesday’s will be the last clash of the two campaigns.
The state of Trump’s health has raised concerns because according to his doctor Sean Conley, he had two temporary setbacks.
The 74-year-old overweight president “experienced two episodes of transient drops in his oxygen saturation” along with high fever in one instance was given oxygen at least once, Conley said.
Meanwhile, Trump has been trying to project an upbeat posture.
His doctors said that he was walking around in the presidential suite at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Centre in Washington and attending to businesses.
On Sunday evening, he also briefly stepped out to greet his supporters gathered outside the hospital.
Before stepping out, he tweeted a video of him standing up and saying: “I learned a lot about Covid-19. I learned it by really going to school. This is the real school. This isn’t the ‘Let’s read the book school’, and I get it, and I understand that. And it’s a very interesting thing I’m going to be letting you know about it.”
His supporters and critics will however, have to wait to hear about his lessons as Trump has been criticised for not taking the global pandemic seriously and playing down health precautions.
In an attempt to show that he was working, the White House released a picture of a gaunt-looking Trump at a conference table with a phone, saying that he participated in a call with Pence, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley.
If Trump is incapacitated, Pence will take over. And if after succeeding Trump should he become too ill to function, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi would be in line to become the Acting President.
(Arul Louis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and followed on Twitter at @arulouis)